Police have arrested a man suspected of brutally murdering seven people and burying their bodies behind a New Britain, Connecticut, shopping center.
William Devin Howell, who allegedly called himself the "sick ripper," is a 45-year-old drifter with a lengthy criminal record. He was charged Friday with three counts of capital felony, three counts of felony murder and three counts of murder.
Howell is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence for manslaughter in the death of Nilsa Arizmendi, whose blood was found "soaked through the fabric into the foam underneath" a seat cushion in Howell's van, according to the warrant for his arrest.
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Around the same time, multiple sources told NBC Connecticut that Howell was suspected of murdering several people found dead in a swampy area behind a shopping center at 593 Hartford Road in New Britain.
According to the warrant, Howell called the plot of land his "garden" and told a cellmate he had killed all seven people over a six-month span in 2003. He also sexually assaulted at least three of them.
Authorities have identified the victims as Diane Cusack, 55, of New Britain; Mary Jane Menard, 40, of New Britain; Joyvaline Martinez, 24, of East Hartford; Melanie Camilini, 29, of Seymour; Danny Lee Whistnant, 44, of New Britain; Marilyn Gonzalez, 27, of Waterbury; and Arizmendi, 33, of Wethersfield.
He killed at least two of the victims with a hammer and strangled at least two others, according to the warrant for his arrest. He also admitted to raping three of them in conversation with a cellmate.
Howell described in gruesome detail the final moments of a victim from Waterbury, whom he raped in his van and strangled, "but she wouldn't die," so he hit her in the face and head with a hammer, shattering her jaw, according to the warrant.
He then "kept her wrapped in the van for two weeks because it was too cold outside to bury her" and slept next to the woman's body, the warrant says. Howell allegedly told his cellmate he "cut off the tips of (the woman's) fingers and dismantled her bottom jaw," then "disposed of the body parts in Virginia."
Howell told a cellmate at least some of the victims were prostitutes and "they all should have known they were going to die because of the life style they were living," the warrant alleges.
He added that he would have traveled across the country to continue his killing spree had he not been caught, according to the warrant. Howell said "there was a monster inside of him that just came out."
Police uncovered the first set of remains in 2007 when a hunter came across a human skull and several other bones, according to the arrest warrant. Those victims were later identified as Cusack, Menard and Martinez.
Investigators established the New Britain Serial Murder Task Force in 2014 and dug up the remains of four other people between April and May 2015.
Howell allegedly became paranoid after he was served with a search warrant in January or February 2015, asking a cellmate for a bullet and at one point swallowing 27 pills in an effort to take his own life, according to the warrant.
He was arraigned Friday in New Britain Superior Court, where a judge ordered him held on $10 million bond. He is due back in court via video conference on Oct. 28.
Information on an attorney for Howell was not immediately available.